Four Bears Going Bowling

LAKE FOREST -- Talk about a long time coming. James "Big Cat" Williams has been around the NFL so long, some of his teammates think he played before helmets were mandated.

   "Cat's like 48 years old," joked linebacker Rosevelt Colvin, when asked about the 33-year-old Williams being named to the Pro Bowl. "When you're playing football at 48, you're doing pretty good.

   "But he deserves it. He's the oldest Bear as we speak, and he's worked tremendously hard. I remember being banged up my first couple of years here, and I remember seeing Cat come out and practice every day. He'd be out there going through wind sprints with the rest of the guys."

   Williams, the Bears' starting right tackle, was one of four Chicago players picked to the Pro Bowl squad. Center Olin Kreutz, along with linebacker Brian Urlacher and special teams player Larry Whigham were chosen and will represent the NFC in Honolulu on Feb. 9, six days after the Super Bowl.

   Williams, who has played his entire 11 years with the Bears and has started every game the past seven seasons, was chosen to his first Pro Bowl.

   "I appreciate the people who voted for me. Lotta love," Williams said. "If it was going to happen, I'm glad it happened this year. Making you wait makes it all a little bit sweeter."

   Kreutz, who was an alternate the last two seasons, teamed up with Williams on an offensive line that has allowed an NFL-low 16 sacks, and helped rookie running back Anthony Thomas rush for over 1,000 yards.

   Urlacher, everybody's sure-bet to make the squad, was surprisingly the only player chosen from a defense that has allowed the fewest points in the league. Whigham, a backup safety and special teams standout, was an unrestricted free agent that the Bears signed this past offseason from New England.

   Free safety Mike Brown, who has had a remarkable second season including interceptions returned for touchdowns in back-to-back overtime games, was left off the team.

   Colvin, who leads the team with 9 1/2 sacks, defensive tackles Keith Traylor and Ted Washington and even punter Brad Maynard had strong arguments to be included on the Pro Bowl roster off a team that's gone 12-3 and has already clinched a playoff spot.

   "There's a whole bunch of guys that are deserving to go that didn't make it," said Brown, who leads the team with five interceptions and has 83 tackles. "Someone has to be left off. It's only my second year, man. It's no big deal.

   "I know you guys (the media) don't believe me, but I don't care. It's not something that at the beginning of the year I said, 'I want to make the Pro Bowl.' It's nice to get noticed like that and be there, but I'm not going to be there. We'll have four guys there that will represent us well. As long as we get respected I'm all right."

   Receiver Marty Booker, who has a Bears single-season record with 94 catches, was also snubbed by the voters. Booker ranks fourth in the NFC in receptions.

   "I'm not disappointed. I honestly didn't expect to be there," Booker said. "It's more of a popularity contest.

   "It's just a matter of going out there next year and proving myself. Maybe one day I'll get there. You never know."

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